Mindful awareness

Monday, July 11, 2011

Balancing Diets

There is certainly room for treats and sweets in a balanced diet. It just requires strength to keep the balance from tipping in a direction that is both unhealthy and likely to lead to weight gain. Eating a balanced diet is similar to parsva bakasana (side crow pose) variation in that way. Yoga students tend to think the pose is all about strength when in fact it is more about maintaining a precarious balance.

 There is a role for desserts in a balanced diet as long as they are eaten in moderation and planned carefully as a component of the entire days’ calorie intake. I enjoy nice wines and friends of mine serve fantastic wine. I know that when I plan to dine at their home in the evening I will need to balance my anticipated extra caloric intake through a careful meal plan for the rest of the day. Another friend bakes incredible desserts and I enjoy her vegan fruit pies. But I have trouble deciding between the choices when she invites me to dinner parties. So I plan for the dessert as I eat my other meals for the day then eat a very small portion of two different pies. These are realistic strategies to plan for sweets. It is neither realistic nor balanced to never eat desserts or fine wine at all.

Treats need to be considered special, not eaten with each meal. The problem with calling a food “good” (vegetables) or “bad” (desserts) is that we lose sight of a balanced lifestyle based on moderation. Once a dieter deprives herself of a certain type of food that she has labeled “bad”, she finds she craves it even more. The strength to resist is less important than a balanced plan. She will be more likely to over indulge on the forbidden food and spiral into a diet that is further from her goal. A meal plan that includes less healthy options as part of one’s lifestyle is more likely to be sustained than dieting that excludes any one type of food.

It has become more difficult to be mindful of portion size because food manufacturers have increased the packages of familiar treats. Coca Cola had been bottled as 6-ounce servings in the 1950’s. That is a moderate portion of a sweet treat. A single 6-ounce serving every now and then as Coke products were consumed in the 1950’s would not be a diet catastrophe. The problem now is that people consume 28-ounce bottles even several times a day. That is when a reasonable indulgence becomes catastrophic for a healthy lifestyle.

Tiny bite-sized candy bars can be a solution to curb a sweet tooth as long as we eat only two or three of them and put the rest of the bag in an inconvenient location (maybe in a box in the garage for the serious Snickers fan). To take time to enjoy the sweet makes it more satisfying than mindlessly polishing off the huge theatre-sized bar that will unbalance any meal plan.

Candy bars do not happen to tempt me; I’m more of a crunchy/salty type. So I don’t often purchase corn chips. If I do, I grab a handful and put the bag back in the pantry before I start to mindlessly plow through more chips than I needed. Another solution to control portion size is to purchase single-serving bags of chips.

We cannot sustain a diet that has drastically cut sweets, fats and salts without eventually feeling hungry and deprived, leading to later gauging. However, a diet high in sweets, fats and salts will lead to unwanted weight gain and potentially unhealthy insulin and lipid protein profiles. We each need to find balance by developing strategies that work for ourselves to reduce unnecessary calories (a number greater than the calories we burn in a day) without feeling deprived. It is a balance of consuming fewer calories from treats while enjoying each small portion.

Today I’ve enjoyed my lunch salad without rice crackers. I’m saving my sweet calories for some Ben and Jerry’s Berried Treasure sorbet. And when I do eat it on this hot evening I will take out only a couple of spoonfuls and enjoy each taste. Perhaps I need a little strength to resist eating the whole pint, but it’s really all about balance.

No comments:

Post a Comment